Just days after announcing the formation of their business development and executive counsel firm, newly connected partners Nick Ardillo, Glenn McCullough Jr. and Andy Taggart were traversing the U.S. seeking “signature” projects to add to their executive management team portfolio.
SeverCorr, one of the largest economic development projects in North America in 2005 when founder John Correnti announced plans to build a steel plant near the Golden Triangle Regional Airport, is already on board. The $750-million technologically advanced steel mini mill is being built on the 1,550-acre Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)-certified megasite in Lowndes County, which Ardillo and McCullough helped develop.
At the time of the interview for this story, Ardillo and Taggart were at a ceremony celebrating the new nearly $3-billion contract for Eurocopter, SeverCorr’s neighbor and a worldwide manufacturer that Ardillo helped lure to the Golden Triangle. McCullough was touring a uranium mine in Canada and enriching relationships with global nuclear power leaders.
The three partners are being picky about their projects. For example, they’re involved in the Red Hills EcoPlex project, a 440-watt lignite-fired circulating fluidized bed power plant and an adjacent lignite mine in Choctaw County that provides low-cost electric power, a cleaner environment and a stronger economy to Northeast Mississippi.
“Those are the kinds of projects we’ll build on,” said McCullough, former TVA chair and Tupelo mayor and a partner in Madison-based Ardillo, McCullough & Taggart, LLC. “Nick, Andy and I are bullish on the state’s future. Mississippi has made progress without question, but it’s really poised for greater progress and we want to play a positive role in that. It’s home to all of us.”
The trio first collaborated during Gov. Kirk Fordice’s administration, when Ardillo was the Republican governor’s deputy chief of staff and Taggart served as chief of staff. Ardillo, former commander of Columbus Air Force Base, most recently served as executive director of the Golden Triangle Regional Airport. Taggart, who practices law in Madison, recently completed a term as president and CEO of the Mississippi Technology Alliance (MTA) and now serves on the Madison County Board of Supervisors. President George W. Bush appointed McCullough to serve as chairman of the TVA board.
“The three of us from three different parts of the state realized there were some real synergies to be developed,” explained Ardillo of the new partnership. “We all own our own individual consulting businesses, but for very large ‘signature’ projects, we saw the need to be able to play off one another and draw from each other’s expertise.”
Ardillo’s expertise: aerospace and defense. Taggart covers technology, healthcare and government policy.
McCullough, with worldwide connections through TVA, knows utilities and finance.
“Our diversity and skill sets together are just a natural fit,” said McCullough. “They’re diverse yet complementary. Look at Andy’s experience with MTA and Nick’s as a decorated Vietnam veteran who’s helped develop the Golden Triangle Regional Airport in the last six or seven years. And hopefully, I can bring up the coattails with my experience as chairman at TVA and as mayor of Tupelo.”
McCullough is gearing up to attend the Mississippi Economic Development Council summer conference in mid-July in Tunica. “We want to partner and collaborate with economic developers all across Mississippi because we know that you can’t get it done without the people on the front line and those are the people in communities all across the state,” said McCullough.
Taggart was quick to point out that “we specifically do not hold ourselves out as economic developers, although some of what we do can be characterized that way. We really do rely on local economic developers and partnerships engaged in that enterprise.”
The firm offers corporate services ranging “from soup to nuts in terms of business strategies, market niches, public procurement, private and public sector financing and government policy at both the state and federal level,” explained Taggart. “We’re really looking for a limited client base and ‘signature’ projects. I’d be very surprised if by the end of the year we took on more than six to 10 clients.”
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at Lynne.Jeter@gmail.com.